December 15, 2015

Katie McGinty Schmoozes As Her Budget Crisis Rages

As Pennsylvania’s budget crisis moves well beyond the 150-day mark, there were some notable absences from the annual Pennsylvania Society gala in New York City Saturday night. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

The December gathering is an occasion for state elected officials, lobbyists and politicos to rub elbows, and occasionally achieve make deals and progress on policy issues. But with the state’s budget crisis causing panic in school districts and prompting layoffs at social service agencies, many politicians decided to stay home, rather than risk the bad PR of being photographed at the Waldorf Astoria in a tux while social workers clip coupons. Some made a show of not showing up: Gov. Tom Wolf, for one, spent Friday helping out at a Harrisburg soup kitchen.

But not all Keystone State politicians implicated in the budget crisis could stay away:

Mr. Sestak’s Democratic rivals, Katie McGinty and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, did attend: 

Sestak took a leaf out of Gov. Wolf’s book and remained in Philly, handing out food and supplies and attacking McGinty:

Why is this so bad for McGinty? Well, after accepting the post of chief of staff, she was seen as one of the “key players” in the state budget negotiations according to PennLive:

The Democratic administration will need plenty of firepower as it pursues tax and spending increases that are meeting with stiff Republican resistance. That’s where administration Chief of Staff Katie McGinty (above center), Policy Secretary John Hanger (above right) and Legislative Secretary Mary Isenhour (not pictured) come in.

Key player or not, McGinty was seen as a liability in the budget negotiations. The Morning Call detailed the tensions she created:

But McGinty’s reputation as Wolf’s chief of staff has not been rosy. McGinty angered Republicans, especially GOP Senate leaders, by accusing them of ‘lining their pockets’ with a pension reform bill during a speech, resulting in McGinty’s being excluded from some early budget talks.

As rumors McGinty was considering a senate run swirled, leading Democrats denied that she would abandon the budget battle before it was resolved. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

But several Democrats this week cast doubt on the idea that she would launch a campaign after taking the high-profile job with Wolf at the beginning of his first term. ‘I don’t think she’ll do it,’ said Rendell. ‘She’d have to start right now, and I don’t think she’d feel good leaving in the middle’ of the contentious state budget negotiations. Brady said he doesn’t expect McGinty to decide on a run until after Wolf resolves his standoff with Republican legislators over the budget.

Gov. Wolf even promised that McGinty’s political ambitions wouldn’t be a “distraction” from the budget, according to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report:

Wolf said he and McGinty have discussed her potential run. “We’ve both agreed we can’t let this be a distraction,” Wolf said. “We need a budget. We need to do good things for Pennsylvania.”

Not so much. McGinty promptly left Pennsylvanians in the lurch, launching a senate campaign on day 34 without a budget, so it’s hardly surprising she wouldn’t let a crisis she helped create get in the way of a political opportunity.